Tag Archive: halfway houses

O’Donnell: Halfway house scandal knocks Christie off Romney’s short list (video)

Last night, Lawrence O’Donnell drew a big red “X” over Chris Christie’s picture on his Veepstakes wall, and pronounced him the first on Romney’s short list to be effectively – if not officially – dropped from consideration. The reason? Chris Christie’s own Willie Horton moment, a damning scandal of the worst kind for a a governor who traded heavily on his law-and-order swagger to get elected as Governor, and whose governorship has been characterized by considerable efforts to privatize the work of government. The growing scandal of the halfway houses stains both parties, for failures of oversight and for allowing CEC, the Christie-tied company running these for-profit facilities, to get away with tricky pay-to-play (not to mention a questionable record on immigrant detention).

But our governor is the big man with the big GOP future. He’s short list material, if you believe media and his out-of-state schedule. But that may all be tumbling down if the man who made him ends up breaking him. Bill Palatucci is Christie’s close friend, former partner, and the engine behind the GOP string-pulling and fundraising that launched the Christie brand. And the profiteer behind CEC. But for the governor, this isn’t just a matter of guilt by association. Christie is tied to CEC not only through friendship with Palatucci; Christie used to be CEC’s lobbyist. And as governor, he’s the one who has to stand for questions about why there are no new safeguards in place two years after David Goodell walked out of a halfway house and killed a woman who turned him down. Why is Christie not out front calling for an  independent investigation of CEC?

Chris Christie once held Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman responsible for the murder of a young man by another recently paroled because she was the sponsor of early-release legislation. Live by the sword …

New York Times’ 10-month investigation is worth reading, so I’ll post the links again. Lawrence O’Donnell’s discussion with Jersey homeboy Steve Kornacki is below the fold, and an eye-opener.

Unlocked: Inside New Jersey’s Halfway Houses by Sam Dolnick

As Escapees Stream Out, a Penal Business Thrives

At a Halfway House, Bedlam Reigns

A Volatile Mix Fuels a Murder

(Dolnick also covered the fox’s report on the state of the henhouse: Christie Orders Stepped-Up Inspections by State of Halfway Houses).

Lawrence O’Donnell talked Christie with Steve Kornacki last night on The Last Word. Video below the fold:  

CEC: Time for An Independent Investigation

The New York Times this week is publishing a three-part article series with a horrific inside view of NJ’s hafway houses, most of which are operated by Community Education Centers (CEC). There is extensive documentation of drugs, gangs and sexual abuse within the facilities, lack of qualified educators and counselors, inmates just walking out and committing awful crimes, a tangled web of CEC’s donations to politicians, collusion with local officials to receive grants, and concerns raised by State Comptroller Boxer about how CEC account for funds provided by the State.

Governor Christie today issued the following press release:  

“We have increased monitoring of halfway houses with enhanced site visits, fines for noncompliance and a new inspection monitoring system… I am calling on the Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan to immediately step up inspections of all halfway houses and report any violations and recommendations for changes to the deputy chief of staff for policy.”

Typically Christie provides us with a quick, short, meaningless response to serious allegations. Such is weak-hearted effort to call for reform, let the issue die down, and then cover it with a rug. Such has been the experience in the past.

As some Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials as well as Governor Christie accept sizable campaign money from CEC, it is time for an independent investigation. There is too much that is rotten within CEC. It greases its way to lucrative contracts, pays a few top executuves lavishly, mistreats its inmates, endangers the public, and hides its accounting of government funds with opaque non-transparency.

Enough is enough. It is time for detectives, forensic accountants, grant mangement specialists, lawyers, correction specialists, “pay-to-play” experts,  and ethicists to remove the veil, unearth the wrong-doing, and make recommendations for changes.  

Barbara Buono statement on halfway house escape rates

“The disclosure of the high-rate of escapees from the halfway houses is an indictment of the administration on one of its most important public safety responsibilities. The fact that it includes so many violent criminals who have again committed violent crimes, including murder, makes their failure to operate the corrections system responsibly extremely disturbing.

“Too many prisoners have escaped too easily and too many of them are a dangerous threat to others.

“The fact that corrections officials don’t have even a basic understanding of the problem inspires very little confidence in their ability to perform their law-enforcement responsibilities. And the fact that they have turned a significant portion of the corrections job over to a profit-making business shows that they have their priorities wrong. They should be protecting the public, not turning a profit for a politically-connected company.

“It’s a tragedy that more people were victimized by the escapees who were supposed to be under the control of the corrections system and it is a shame that they have taken very little corrective actions. They should be held accountable for their failures and do all that is necessary to put them to an end.”